Weekend preview: Moulson debuts, Canucks crashing and Rangers-Wings on NBC

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A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…

Moulson debuts

Matt Moulson will play his first game for Minnesota on Saturday when the Wild take on the Stars in Dallas.

The former Sabres sniper — acquired at Wednesday’s trade deadline — is a three-time 30-goal scorer that should provide a huge boost for the goal-starved Wild. Minnesota only has 153 goals this year (24th in the NHL) with just two players, Jason Pominville and Zach Parise, in the 20-plus category. Moulson’s 17 instantly puts him third on the team.

Based on practices, it looks as though Moulson will debut on Minnesota’s second line alongside Charlie Coyle and captain Mikko Koivu. Wild head coach Mike Yeo was excited about the versatility Moulson brought to the lineup, noting he added depth among the top two lines.

“I liked the look of them before we went out on the ice and I liked the look of them after we came off the ice, too,” Yeo told the Star-Tribune. “I thought there was real good energy in our practice today. Obviously guys are excited.

“We felt really good about our team and where we were at going into this trade deadline and we feel that we’re a strong team now, we’re a deeper team. So we’re excited to put it to work now.”

Minnesota’s other new additions — Cody McCormick and Ilya Bryzgalov — are also likely to be in the mix on Saturday. McCormick has a shot to draw in on the Wild’s fourth line, while Bryzgalov will serve as Darcy Kuemper’s backup.

Canucks crashing

Vancouver is 1-8-1 in its last 10 and, on Thursday, was smashed 6-1 by Dallas — a team the Canucks are chasing for the final wild card playoff spot in the Western Conference. To the observer, it looked as though Vancouver players had all but quit on beleaguered head coach John Tortorella; the flop came shortly after a listless 1-0 loss in Phoenix and the contentious Roberto Luongo trade.

Vancouver will look to try and get back on track Saturday when it takes on Calgary at Rogers Arena. This, of course, will be the first time the two taems met since Tortorella tried to attack Flames head coach Bob Hartley on Jan. 18, an incident that netted Torts a lengthy suspension.

NHL on NBC

The Rangers and Red Wings will meet for the third and final time this season on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC). If the first two games were any indication, Sunday’s affair should be tight — the Rangers won the first meeting in OT (3-2) and the second was an old-fashioned goalie duel as the Blueshirts beat Detroit 1-0 on the strength of Henrik Lundqvist’s 38-save shutout.

Kariya and Selanne, one of NHL’s most dominant duos, enter Hall of Fame together

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Paul Kariya probably had to wait a couple of years longer than he should have to get his induction into the Hall of Fame, but it was at least fitting that the wait allowed him to enter alongside his long-time running mate, Teemu Selanne.

Both players were among the class of seven inducted into the Hall of Fame on Monday. They spent several years alongside one another in Anaheim (plus one year in Colorado) and were one of the most lethal offensive duos the NHL has ever seen.

The magic they were able to work on the ice together was simply incredible, and at times jaw-dropping.

For example…

Selanne said on Monday that he played some of his best years in the NHL alongside Kariya, while added that he would not be getting the call without his years alongside Selanne.

Their production together can not be understated.

Between the 1995-96 and 2000-01 seasons, the years they spent together in Anaheim, 35 percent of the Ducks goals were scored by one of those two players.

What is most incredible about that production is that Kariya only played in 395 out of 492 games due to injury, while Selanne only played in 382 after being acquired in a mid-season trade in 1995 and then traded during the 2001 season.

While Selanne had the ultimate combination of sustained dominance and longevity in his career to make him one of the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorers and point producers, Kariya’s career came to an unfortunate and premature end due to concussion issues. While his final stat line may not stack up among the NHL’s all-time greats, he was one of the league’s most dominant offensive players for more than a decade.

Kariya said on Monday that it took him a year after his retirement to feel normal again, but that he is now no longer having headaches.

He also mentioned that while the NHL seems to be heading in the right direction when it comes to player safety, but that targeted head shots have no place in the game and he would like to see them eliminated.

Yakupov becomes UFA after Blues don’t extend qualifying offer

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Nail Yakupov, the first overall draft pick only five years ago, has become an unrestricted free agent.

The 23-year-old winger was not extended a qualifying offer by the St. Louis Blues, thus providing him UFA status. He played 40 games for the Blues in 2016-17, battling a knee injury and scoring just three goals.

Yakupov wants to remain in the NHL, saying in May he has zero plans to return to Russia. It’s possible he could re-sign with the Blues at a lower salary than his qualifying offer would’ve been.

If not, there are 30 other teams he can speak with now.

Yakupov is currently in the conversation with Alexandre Daigle and Patrik Stefan in terms of biggest first overall busts in NHL history.

The Blues did extend qualifying offers to five players: defensemen Colton Parayko and Petteri Lindbohm, forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Oskar Sundqvist, and goalie Jordan Binnington.

‘Hawks sign Forsberg, who should be Crawford’s new backup

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Anton Forsberg, the former Columbus goalie Chicago acquired in the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin blockbuster, has signed a two-year extension with the ‘Hawks.

Forsberg, 24, came to North America in the ’13-14 campaign and has spent most of his time with Columbus’ AHL affiliate. He helped the club capture the Calder Cup in 2016, and that performance was part of the reason Chicago GM Stan Bowman went out and acquired him.

In the aftermath, Bowman said Forsberg would get the “first crack” at the No. 2 gig behind Corey Crawford. The ‘Hawks have been without a backup since sending Scott Darling to Carolina.

While Forsberg is the favorite for the gig, he’s not a lock. He only has 10 games of NHL experience — a pretty small sample size — and lost out on a similar opportunity with Columbus. Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo were battling to be Sergei Bobrovsky‘s understudy, with Korpisalo eventually winning out.

In other Chicago news, the club gave depth forward Tomas Jurco a one-year extension today. Jurco was acquired from Detroit at last year’s trade deadline and appeared in 13 games for the ‘Hawks, scoring one goal. He didn’t dress for the club’s first-round playoff sweep at the hands of Nashville.

No word yet on financials for either guy.

Wild extend d-man Olofsson — two years, $1.45 million

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Gustav Olofsson, the Minnesota defenseman taken in the second round of the ’13 draft, has signed a two-year, $1.45 million extension, per the Star-Tribune.

Olofsson was a restricted free agent, having just wrapped his entry-level contract. This new deal will pay him $725,000 per season and, importantly, it’s of the one-way variety.

The Star-Tribune reports Olofsson is expected to play in the Wild’s top-six defense next season, especially since GM Chuck Fletcher appears primed to trade one of Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella or Matt Dumba. Fletcher needs cap space to finalize new deals for RFA forwards Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

Speaking of contracts, the Wild opted against making a qualifying offer for d-man Christian Folin. This means he’ll be able to test free agency, though it’s reported Minnesota might try to re-negotiate with him as a UFA.